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In Praise for the Average

A good few years ago I read the book “Blessings of a Skinned Knee” by Wendy Mogel. In the opening chapter of her book the clinic psychologist described a new phenomena, in which parents were welcoming the news their children had a “diagnosis”. When parents were told the “good news” that their child was normal she was met with disappointment. “If nothing was wrong, if there was no diagnosis, no disorder, then there was nothing that could be fixed.” Mogel writes. Re-defining Special The problem was that we have created a culture in which everyone is special, and this creates a problem, because not everyone is special. Let me explain: my children are special, they are very special- because they are my children. Do I have a family of geniuses? Are the child prodigies? No on both counts, they are in fact normal kids, and thus they are no more special than the next child. By making everyone special negates the fact that most people are not. Most children are not maths geniuses, or reading fluently by age 3. So when we see our child struggling or just plain failing in an area we need a reason. And averageness is not a worthy reason. We not only want a reason, as parents we feel like we have failed them. That there is something wrong. What’s Wrong with Average? At what point did average become as sin? When did not racing geniuses make us failures? I’ve been meditating on these things lately and by coincidence I read a quote in Ann Voksamp’s latest blog post, by D.L, Moody “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all, there are comparatively few people in this world who have great talents.” There are very few Einstein’s in the world. An yet God has called us to affect the world- whether that is telling the multitudes, or being faithful in the small circle He has placed you. God doesn’t judge value or success in size and numbers. He isn’t going to use that extraordinary person in the pew next to us, because he’s not that extraordinary. He’s going to use all of us ordinary people. In the homeschooling world we do see the families who have children graduating with degrees aged 13. But these are the exception. Most of us have our average children, who struggle with their times tables, still don’t get the difference between their and there, and think pumping jokes are the height of...

Treating Children as “Persons”

My big boy approached, head down, shoulders slumped, face downcast. What has happened? Has he fallen out with someone? Did he get himself in trouble? These questions run through my head. As he approaches I ask how his morning has been. “They treated me like a baby!” came the sullen reply. Oh! He had spent the morning taking part in the children’s ministry at a conference. I try to sooth the offence, pointing out that there are younger children there too. As the day goes on he expounds on what it means to be “treated like a baby”. The verb that best encapsulates this is “to patronise”. And it is all to common when we look at the things on offer for children. Language is dumbed down, those working with children are unnaturally excitable, praise is offered for the least little thing- it’s all so false. We live in a culture where there is an attitude that things have to be dumbed down to make them palatable to children. So many books in the kids section of the library or book store are filled with inane drivel. Children see through this. When we treat children as persons they rise to the challenge. Talking to children normally i.e. as people, listening to them with intent. Reading books that make them think. A good rule of thumb when picking a book: if you can’t stand reading it, don’t expect them to enjoy having it read to them. When I was lately reading more about Charlotte Mason’s educational ideas, one of her basic principals is that children are born persons. This idea resonated with me. It is something that I have come over the years to find true with all my children. Young children ask profound questions, they may not frame them in the sophisticated language of an adult, but they are truly profound. Their questions deal with very things of life, questions of eternity. Their questions clothe their hopes and fears. And we do well to treat them as precious. Lately I heard a prophet prophecy over a group of children, they were aged from babies right up. As this man of God spoke into these young lives it struck me that God knew the deepest thought of these children. He knew the fears of the youngest child, and to God these were precious and as relevant as any adults fears. God cares about children’s questions, hopes and fears. God does not regard them as less important, or as inferior because they do not come from the mind of a “grown-up”....

Having a Fun Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Even if you are not going on holiday, creating a summer holiday that will leave great memories and happy children can, quickly, become expensive. A trip to the cinema, an outing to the zoo, a day out at a theme park- these cost a lot of money. But, a great summer does not have to cost the earth to create. One outlay I have made was to purchase Historic Scotland membership. This gives us all free entry into all the Historic Scotland sites. And since many of them are within an easy drive we can have lots of days out, at a fraction of the cost that it would be to pay entry into each one individually. There are other organisations that have membership schemes that provide free entry into their properties. The National Trust is another favourite with many families. Family membership is also something relatives could give as a family Christmas present. Obvious places to go for outings is the beach, forests, botanical gardens, hillwalking and parks. These can be the sources of many adventures. Consider building a camp fire, toasting marshmallows and having an evening picnic. By inviting friends to join you, then their is the perfect recipe for fun and great memories. It goes without saying that you first make sure you light any fires in a place where they are permitted, and do so safely, especially if it has been very dry. Or what about a disposable BBQ on the beach? For wet days many museums and art galleries are free. You can also have a movie day, or a baking day. Also look out for special summer holiday deals on swimming pools. More and more local authorities are offering free child swimming over the holidays. Local councils often have free sports activities as well, it is worth phoning a few leisure centres to see if there is anything on offer. Many churches also offer holiday clubs for a week of the school holidays. All my children (besides Thomas, who has not yet been old enough) have loved attending a local church club. Throughout the years our family have had some wonderful happy days through the summer. The days which have left the best memories have been the free days. My children still talk about building a camp fire in a wood with friends; playing in a burn (small stream) in the hills, on a very hot day (yes, they do sometimes happen in Scotland); and an unplanned trip to a beach. We also save money by doing lots of picnics. Each child has...

The Dangers of Comparing Ourselves to Others

I stood grating parmesan cheese, for yet another dinner, my body aching with tiredness and my soul weary. The noise of children playing in the garden on a summer’s evening. As I prepared food I thought how I wanted someone else to do this for me, but how that was not going to happen. I thought how I didn’t want my tiredness to overflow into grumpiness towards the children over dinner. It’s easy at times like these, the times when the mundane drudgery of the everyday, when the relentlessness of daily life becomes overwhelming, to compare ourselves to other people. To think of that friend who appears to have it all together, to have an endless supply of energy. To compare ourselves to the women we know surrounded by support and help, who has scheduled days off, and “me time” on a regular basis. The problem with comparing ourselves to these women is firstly it does not help us, it adds to our grumpiness. It can also lead to bitterness, if we are not careful. Such thoughts do not change our circumstances, but they make the circumstances harder to cope with. Secondly, such women do not actually exist. We take someone we know and create a distorted image in our minds of what they are like, what their children are like, what their husbands are like, and what their circumstances are like. All of which, at best is a charactercher of reality; at worse a complete deception. The truth is every signal one of us have days where we cannot cope. And there are times where we do just need to grit our teeth until bed time. The devil wants us to believe the lie that that family are better, that that women is a better mother, that those children are more obedient, that their marriage is stronger….. the list goes on. But that’s what it is: a lie. Knowing Your Own Identity One remedy for this is to know our own identity. Keeping our vision fixed on what God has called us to do. God has called us to raise the children He has given us, with their unique personalities. He is in control of our marriage, our finances, and where we live. Therefore he will give us the grace to cope. It is like David trying to fight in Saul’s armour. He couldn’t do it. David was not Saul, he was David. David had to fight Goliath as David, only then could he win. We will not be the mothers our children need if we try to...

Parenting and Pain

You do not need to have suffered the loss of a child to know parenting is painful. The pain we feel when our child is hurt, rejected, or fails is as real to us as to that child. Having children is like having a piece of your heart cut out and forever placed in another person. I have recently discovered the poems of Wendell Berry and he describes this feeling in his poem “The Way of Pain”, the pain that comes from love. The Way of Pain by Wendell Berry, 1980 1. For parents, the only way is hard. We who give life give pain. There is no help. Yet we who give pain give love; by pain we learn the extremity of love. 2. I read of Abraham’s sacrifice the Voice required of him, so that he led to the altar and the knife his only son. The beloved life was spared that time, but not the pain. It was the pain that was required. 3. I read of Christ crucified, the only begotten Son sacrificed to flesh and time and all our woe. He died and rose, but who does not tremble for his pain, his loneliness, and the darkness of the sixth hour? Unless we grieve like Mary at His grave, giving Him up as lost, no Easter morning comes. 4. And then I slept, and dreamed the life of my only son was required of me, and I must bring him to the edge of pain, not knowing why. I woke, and yet that pain was true. It brought his life to the full in me. I bore him suffering, with love like the sun, too bright, unsparing, whole. “by pain we learn, the extremity of love.” how very true that is, I love these words. It is impossible to love without suffering pain as well. The two go together. Berry’s words are comforting, when the path is all too painful, too raw. What more can be said. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Our Journey to Removing Toxins From Our Home: the Beginning...

It all started a couple of years ago when I began to see more and more, from various sources about the dangers of antiperspirants. At first I thought, antiperspirants can’t be that bad, if they really cause cancer they couldn’t possible sell them… there are laws, standards, tests that all have to be passed. However, the more I saw the greater the doubt as to their safety increased. I think one of the biggest clinchers was when someone told me that one of the first things women are asked if diagnosed with breast cancer is: “do you use antiperspirants?” So I switched to a deodorant, made with natural, plant based materials. I was a bit nervous at first, since high school I had a fear of being thought of as smelly or sweaty, I’d seen teachers be victimised by pupils because of body odour problems. But I stuck with it. To be honest it took a couple of weeks for my body to get use to being able to sweat- we are meant to sweat it’s a natural, God ordained mechanism. It helps our body remove toxins. And once I saw that the deodorant worked, and I did’t feel dirty I was happy. My thought process is not so much that any one chemical is going to cause terrible health problems. The question I don’t think we know the answer to is what is the effect of so many chemicals, from so many sources, building up over years in our environment and our bodies? And how do these different chemicals react together in our environment, something that my be ok in isolation is it ok when combined with this other chemical from a different source? The fact is cancer rates are sourcing in the West, as are other health problems and our exposure to chemicals is huge. Yes diet, and lifestyle factors also play a role but think the evidence is their to also support a detoxification of our homes also. The next step has been cleaning products. I am trying to replace much of the chemical based products that we all have in our homes. I already didn’t use air fresheners- they give me head aches; and I’d stopped using fabric softener years ago, have never missed it. Now was the time for the multi-purpose cleaner in the kitchen and bathroom, here’s what I’ve replaced it with: I bought a plastic spray bottle. And I fill it with 1 part vinegar, 1 part water, and a squirt of washing up liquid. I also had around 10 drops of...
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